When media mogul John Malone adds 1 million acres of Maine and New Hampshire timberlands to his holdings next week, he might become the largest private landowner in the United States.

Malone is already No. 5 on The Land Report magazine’s list of top 100 private landowners, with 1.2 million acres that include working ranch lands in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, and about 70,000 acres near Jackman in Somerset County. No. 1 on the magazine’s list is Malone’s fellow media kingpin and friend, Ted Turner, who owns more than 2 million acres.

“I think part of him is trying to be the biggest,” Jym St. Pierre, executive director of RESTORE the North Woods, a forest conservation group, said of Malone.

St. Pierre is among a number of Mainers wondering what Malone’s intentions are.

News reports last week that Malone’s company was about to buy 1,004,346 acres of the Maine woods raised concerns among environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts about his plans for the land, which has long served as working forest and recreational and hunting grounds.

Questions about Malone’s intentions are surfacing partly because he has kept a low profile in Maine, where he has owned a home since at least 1985. He is largely unknown by the state’s environmental community and is rarely spotted in the Maine communities where he already owns property.

At one point, Malone was a member of The Nature Conservancy’s national board of directors, but he no longer serves on the board and he has no dealings with the organization’s Maine chapter, said Mike Tetreault, state director.

Malone did not respond to phone calls and e-mails requesting an interview.

Malone formed a company, BBC LLC, to buy up the holdings of GMO Renewable Resources, a forest investment management company.

The acquisition will give Malone ownership of more than 5 percent of Maine’s total land mass of 22 million acres. All but about 30,000 acres of his purchase is in Maine, with the remainder in New Hampshire.

In the past, Malone has said he is interested in conservation, and he has a history of saving land from development in Colorado. But so far, Mainers have had to rely on Malone’s representatives for information about his long-term plans for his Maine land.

The people who speak for Malone insist Mainers have nothing to worry about.

“John holds a lot of land, and he likes to see it remain as it has historically been used,” said Thad York, general manager of Malone’s Silver Spur Ranches in Wyoming, the ninth-largest cattle operation in the country.

Malone is famous in the world of business, where he is known for aggressive and clever deal-making.

He is chairman of Liberty Media Corp., an Englewood, Colo., company with diverse operations that include the Expedia.com travel website, the cable channel QVC, the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team and Sirius XM satellite radio. He regularly makes Forbes magazine’s list of wealthiest Americans, which calculated his net worth at $3 billion last year.

As a businessman, Malone has been the subject of numerous articles and at least one book. He is on the board of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Malone’s history in Maine has been to buy up large tracts of land and continue the existing management practices.

He owns 220 acres of land in Boothbay on the site of a former summer camp. The property includes a meticulously restored, 100-year-old house that overlooks the Back River, far from the town’s more fashionable oceanfront neighborhoods.

An avid sailor, Malone owns the Boothbay Region Boatyard in Southport, a year-round business where he keeps his own sailing yachts. Employees there declined to comment.

In 1995, Malone bought Mosquito Island, off the village of Port Clyde on Penobscot Bay. The 220-acre property includes a stone house, which Malone restored using local contractors.

“He just wants to make sure nobody comes in and puts in a huge development,” said Chris Williams, a Colorado architect who has worked on all of Malone’s Maine properties.

Those properties include Falcon Lodge, a 7-acre complex and the only camp on Spencer Lake, outside Jackman. The lodge was carefully restored, and the surrounding 15,000 acres, as well as another 53,524 nearby acres that Malone bought in 2002, have remained as working forest open to public recreational uses.

“The community (around Jackman) has felt he has been a good landowner and good neighbor, although there were some of the same concerns at first,” said Stephen Coleman, a forest manager with LandVest, who oversees Malone’s land in the area.

Although Malone and his wife reportedly spend several months each year in Boothbay, he is virtually unknown in town and does not mingle much with the local population.

“I have seen him once in 22 years,” said Bonnie Lewis, Boothbay town clerk.

Malone gave what was described as a generous donation to the Boothbay Region Land Trust at one point to conserve the Ovens Mouth Preserve, next to his own property.

But in recent years Malone has not been active in the trust, said Nick Ullo, executive director, who declined to reveal the size of Malone’s donation. Ullo said he has never met Malone.

“I have met people who know him and they say he is a real nice guy, but that first meeting is a tough one,” said Ullo.

It appears that Malone does not generally protect his land with conservation easements, which would prohibit future development. Betsy Ham, project manager at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, said none of his coastal holdings have conservation easements, as far as she can determine.

But both Ullo and Ham praised Malone’s land management practices.

“He has been a very good steward of his land,” said Ullo.

Gary Bahlkow, director of LandVest Timberlands, who is providing advice to Malone on the newest land deal, said Malone is interested in first-class management of the forestlands.

Some of the land he is about to buy is already protected with easements that preserve it as a working forest. Some of the land is encumbered with leases for several wind projects.

“The key message we are hoping to get out there is the supply of forest products to market will continue without interruption, it will remain sustainable and the traditional access and structure will remain in place,” said Bahlkow.

Brownie Carson, outgoing director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the state’s oldest and largest environmental groups, said while Malone may not be actively involved with conservation organizations in the state, he has a strong reputation for protecting his lands.

Carson said someone with Malone’s wealth and influence and demonstrated past interest in conservation makes him a much better buyer than a company like Plum Creek, which has generated controversy by selling off prime chunks of forest for development.

“We should all feel encouraged that John Malone is the buyer,” said Carson.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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